Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Paschal School to close at end of academic year

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the May 1, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

After 68 years of continuous service, on June 12, 2008, St. Paschal Parish School, in Spokane Valley, will close its doors for the last time. Only the Educare program will continue to operate.

In a letter to parents, principal Richard Pelkie Sr. wrote, “our student population has slowly decreased to the stage that the 24 students (in) grades 1 through 8 is too small (a number) to sustain a school that will give the students the quality education that they deserve and need.”

Compounding the problem, Pelkie wrote, is an overall lack of funds to support the school. “The tuition paid,” he said, “does not provide sufficient funds to operate the school. Fundraisers, although very successful, do not make up the difference. Financial support from the parish is critical, and at this time the parish has no money to give the school.”

St. Paschal School opened on Sept. 3, 1940, with a principal and faculty provided by the Sisters of the Holy Names. During the 1960s, more and more laity began to take over the staffing of the school. In the course of almost seven decades, thousands of children received a Catholic elementary education at St. Paschal.

“St. Paschal Parish School has a long history of success in meeting the needs of our students,” Pelkie wrote to parents. “When we can no longer assure our students of a quality education, we need to do the right thing by affording them the opportunity to seek that quality education in another setting.”

Barb and Bill Trudeau’s oldest offspring became a student at St. Paschal Parish School in 1991. This year, they have a 7th grader who will need to begin 8th grade next fall in another school.

“There are many things we will miss about St. Paschal School,” Barb Trudeau said. “We enjoyed the small school atmosphere – all the students K-8 knew and learned from each other. It was like one big family with many children. Just after our oldest child started at St. Paschal 17 years ago, another mother referred to St. Paschal as a ‘hidden jewel.’ She was right.”

Parents Marge and Kerry Matthews have a graduating 8th-grader this year. Marge also has the distinction of having attended St. Paschal herself, graduating in 1972.

“Our youngest is graduating,” she said. “We’re sad to see (the school) go. It’s been struggling for quite some time.”

Joseph Ormsby has been teaching grades 1-3 this year.

“When I started as a teacher (at St. Paschal), I was unprepared for the life altering journey on which I was about to embark.

“This chapter of my life began in the summer of 2001,” when he interviewed with the late Sister Loretta Giampietri of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, then principal of St. Paschal School. “Sister Loretta was one of the last Religious left in the Spokane diocesan school system,” said Ormsby. “During my initial conversation with Sister I had to admit that I had no idea where St. Paschal School was even located. She laughed, as if to say this was a common occurrence, and simply said that it was located on Park Road near Felts Field. Needless to say, I found the school, got interviewed, and was offered the position. This was to be my first experience in the Catholic school system.”

Ormsby views the closing of St. Paschal Parish School with regret for more reasons than one. “I think its sort of a blow to Catholics in general,” he said, “just because I feel that the school provides a very important ministry for the church, and every time a school closes there are people that ministry won’t reach now. I feel that’s very unfortunate.”

On a personal level, Ormsby said, “I’ve made such wonderful friends here, and over the years I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of people, and that has become very, very difficult for me. It’s very hard to say goodbye, and the finality of it is very difficult. If a family leaves (the school) for whatever reason, there is always the chance that maybe they will decide to come back, and that is not an option that is open to them now.”

A new job is, of course, now a high priority for him. He recently completed his school administrative credential. “In all honesty, wherever God feels that my gifts are best utilized, that’s where I will be,” he said.

“I want to thank the St. Paschal parent community and the parish,” wrote Pelkie, “for the years of support they have given the school. It is through your efforts that the school has remained open for such a long time.”

There are two other Catholic schools in Spokane Valley, St. John Vianney and St. Mary. Both schools plan to welcome any former St. Paschal Parish school students next fall.

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